Monthly Archives: June 2004

C'mon, young women, vote!

The Village Voice: Nation: A New Voting Age for Women: 26 by Cathy Hong

A New Voting Age for Women: 26
by Cathy Hong
June 15th, 2004 10:00 AM

Even shopping at an Urban Outfitters, a retail chain that caused a small scandal this year when it created a T-shirt with the phrase “Voting is for Old People,” 25-year-old Hunter College student Judy Denby hardly fits the mold of the sheltered and indifferent slacker. To earn money for tuition, she spent two years in Kosovo, working in the U.S. Army’s payroll department. She says being in the military was “not a good experience,” and she strongly believes high-ranking officials have abused their power in Iraq.

But Denby has other strong beliefs. “I’m not voting,” she says. “It’s out of our hands. There’s nothing we can do.”

Women like Denby help to account for the 62 percent of females between the ages of 18 and 25 who didn’t show up for the last presidential election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. “There is a huge number of women who are on the sidelines of democracy, and young women are on the top of those bleachers,” says Page Gardner, project co-director of the nonpartisan Women’s Voices, Women’s Vote.

Historically, younger women of all races and classes have been less likely to vote than their older counterparts, but they have at least edged out their male peers. Then a study funded in 2002 by the Pew Charitable Trust for People and Press painted a gloomier picture. It showed that only 22 percent of 20- to 25-year-old women vote regularly, versus 28 percent of men in that age group. Could it be that young women are giving up on the game?

Reasons abound for why young women don’t vote. They’re alienated from the political process. Politicians don’t connect with them personally. College life disengages them from the real world. “They are concerned,” says Brandon Holley, editor of Elle Girl, “but they�re uprooted, disorganized. Things don’t occur to them until the last minute.”

Many young women report feeling too uninformed on current events to be confident about voting. Despite her military experience, Denby doesn’t watch the news and says she doesn�t know enough. “Maybe it is ignorance, but I think there�s no difference between the two candidates,” she says.

Taylor Mitchell, 21, is working on a magazine article in which she interviewed young women from all walks of life about their opinions on the upcoming election. “I was disappointed, because anytime a girl was with someone else, they were weak with their responses, especially when they were with guys,” she says. “They would hesitate and ask their boyfriends, ‘What do I think?’ ”

This year, activists on both sides hope to spark a surge in turnout by young female voters. Working with the Dixie Chicks, Rock the Vote has launched “Chicks Rock, Chicks Vote,” a campaign that�s sending volunteers to malls, concerts, and college campuses to teach young women about voting. Bands like Sleater-Kinney, a feminist rock band, are joining with Music for America to sign voters up at their concerts. “Onstage, we sometimes encourage them to vote Bush off,” guitarist Carrie Brownstein says. “But usually we just let them know the registration stands are there. It’s better than being didactic.”

V-Day has begun its own campaign, called V is for Vote: “We have something called ‘Get your Pussy Posses to the Polls.’ Each girl is responsible for bringing friends to the voter polls,” says founder and playwright Eve Ensler.

The concerns of younger women seem to differ from those of older women only with regard to perspective. “For education, young women are concerned about mortgage-sized college debts. For older women, they�re preoccupied with education for their children,” says Christina Desser, co-director of Women’s Voices, Women’s Vote.

Desser says she expects a huge increase in voting by young women, because she’s meeting so many who are registering for the first time. Her optimism is shared by young activists like Molly Kuwachi, 19, who staged a production of The Vagina Monologues at her school and donated the proceeds to a local women’s shelter. “Look, so many of the things we took for granted are in danger, like abortion rights,” says the Connecticut College student. “Look at the March [for Women’s Lives] in Washington. Organizers didn’t think many young women would show up, but out of the million, a third ended up being 18- to 24-year-olds.”

Despite the optimism, it’s all conjecture until November. Says Brownstein, “The older generation is riled up, so I worry that there is some projection. Eighteen-year-olds hardly have urgency about anything, let alone voting, so you never know. But I hope they�re right.”

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This is a group that could make a big difference in November. I really hope younger women can start to realize how important their voices are.

We're just so Special!

America the Special

The United States has had, as a society, a sense of being ‘special’ ever since people began coming to these shores looking for a place to practice their religion without oppression. The sense of America being a ‘promised land’ has created a way of thinking about this nation that extends far beyond religious definitions.

Since World War I and especially since World War II, this sense of specialness has focused on American democracy as the highest form of democracy, something we are taught to believe it is our duty and our purpose to teach to other nations. We also view our way of life as the highest form of society and culture yet developed, characterized by individual freedom and affluence, and it is also something we believe is to be shared with the rest of the world.

My fellow Americans, it’s time we got over ourselves. We aren’t God’s gift to the world.

The longer we walk around, both as individual citizens and as a nation, pretending that our government’s worst actions are justified because of our ‘specialness,’ the more horrifying and destructive those actions become. The more we convince ourselves that our way of life, with affluence and freedom side-by-side with alienation, ill health and the spiritual emptiness of consumerism, is superior to the way people in other countries live, the more devastating our continued consumption becomes to the world and also to ourselves.

America is special. We are special in our apparent willingness to allow our government to start wars, repudiate treaties, ignore international justice and torture prisoners in the name of protecting us and our special way of life.

But we’re also special in truly believing in the principles of democracy and freedom, and wanting a better world. We’ve been a nation of hope and possibility since the beginning. Our ancestors fought tirelessly for full rights and dignity for all of us, for the vote, for the protections of the Constitution. We have individual freedom because of those struggles, and we sincerely want to extend that freedom to others around the world.

We’re also special in being, as Robert Jensen has said, ‘citizens of the empire.’ Our nation is building empire around the world with a horrendous level of death and destruction, and doing it in the name of protecting us from terrorism. Our corporate-devised culture is exporting consumerism and a materialist approach to happiness around the world, destroying indigenous cultures and the ecological life support system of the planet in the process. One of the main messages justifying both these efforts is ‘America is special.’

My fellow Americans, we are special – we’re special in that the whole thing hinges on our willingness to let it happen. That means we have in our hands the lever by which to put a stop to it, and reset the course of our nation’s relations with the world and our relations with the people of the world.

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This is what gets me. That half this country doesn’t seem to understand that world opinion has now swung completely against the United States of America. They don’t seem to get that we are now looked on as the empire-building, abusive, arrogant society that Bush has delivered. Is that what those people really want others to believe about this country? Are they so insecure, so frightened, so much the manipulated, angry little white males that have been preened for years into believing they are so superior to everyone else that they really don’t see where the path we are on leads?

Sorry, guys, but the rest of us, the 50% that have known all along where this was going to go aren’t going to let you build that America.

We want our America back.

Nancy pushes for stem cell research

ScienCentral: Reagan Stem Cells

Friends of Nancy Reagan say she plans to devote herself to pushing for federal support of stem cell research that scientists believe could lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. With Ronald Reagan’s death she’s expected to be more aggressive in asking the Bush administration to reverse its ban on stem cell research involving human embryos�a policy that led one leading American scientist to move his lab overseas. This ScienCentral News video has more.

Stem Cell Support

Ronald Reagan’s tragic deterioration from Alzheimer’s, the progressive, degenerative brain disease that currently devastates over 4 million Americans, was hidden from public view. But his wife Nancy has publicly asked for support of stem cell research, including research on very early human embryos. “Science has presented us with a hope called stem cell research, which may provide our scientists with many answers that for so long have been beyond our grasp,” she said after accepting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s “Care Giver�s Award” on May 9th, 2004. “I just don�t see how we can turn our backs on this.” Stem cells have the potential to turn into any type of body cell, including brain cells.

Roger Pederson, professor of regenerative medicine at the University of Cambridge and director of the Cambridge Centre for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine, believes that stem cell research provides us with a whole new way of understanding health and diseases. “We are more than just a bag of DNA,” he says. “We are more than just our genetic material. We replace ourselves continually…This continual renewal or turnover of cells is what keeps us healthy. If we didn’t have cells being produced constantly from our stem cells, we would become very ill very quickly and die. In fact, the diseases that we see that are untreatable currently, are often diseases of tissues that don’t work effectively to renew themselves from stem cells�diseases of the heart, diseases of the pancreas, diseases of the brain.”

image: NBC News
In 2001 President Bush banned federally funded labs from doing research that involves the creation of any type of human embryo. That led Pedersen to leave the University of California at San Francisco for England. “The United States government had at that moment cancelled its plans, suspended really any consideration of funding this area of research,” Pedersen explains. “And I had by then dedicated my entire lab to carrying out research on human embryonic stem cells. I had to consider other options. One way would be to stop working on human embryonic stem cells, but I didn’t choose that option. I chose to move to a country that was willing to provide support, broad support for this research.”

While the U.S. supports research using stem cells from adults, Pedersen says learning to transform those cells for therapy will still require understanding embryonic stem cells and “what it is about the egg that has this awesome power, that it can take a body cell and turn it into a cell that can make every tissue in the body,” he says. “So just imagine that we do understand the secret of the egg. Then we could hopefully take tissues that are specialized and turn them into another type of cell, without going through the egg.”

New Jersey recently joined California in deciding to support embryonic stem cell research, but state dollars can’t come anywhere near the funding levels of federally supported research. “What we’re hoping is that the insights that we get from studying stem cells in the petri dish will lead us to an understanding of how to make that process work better in the body,” says Pedersen.

Dick Meyer agrees with me…

A Reagan Honor: Stem Cell Research

This Against the Grain commentary is written by CBSNews.com’s Dick Meyer.
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Instead of bumping Alexander Hamilton off the $10 bill or concocting a way to put Ronald Reagan on Mt. Rushmore, let�s pay tribute to the 40th president by taking the shackles of censorship and fear off of stem cell research.

This would be a profound, living legacy that would instantly tell millions of families and patients coping with Alzheimer�s, Parkinson�s disease, diabetes and spinal cord injuries that their government is no longer ignoring rational research into these conditions.

Even before Reagan�s death, there was new pressure on President Bush to reverse his 2001 decision that federal funds could only be used on already existing stem cell lines. The source of that pressure was Nancy Reagan, who began speaking out in support of full funding for stem cell research recently.

It will be an uphill battle. This week, the current first lady appeared on the morning talk shows and stated her own opposition to full funding of stem cell research.

But politically the tide may have turned. Last month, 206 House members wrote Bush urging him to change course. And now 58 Senators, including 14 Republicans, have done the same.

>From any wider view, it�s folly to think the genetic genie can be put back into the bottle. The science will come from other countries and from American scientists using private funds. But results will come more slowly. And suffering that may be preventable will not be prevented.

The morality that worships that sanctity of life in the form of blastocysts, freshly fertilized eggs composed of a few cells, is willing to condemn other life � condemns it to suffering, to preventable death.

No one�s personal liberty will be infringed by stem cell research. If stem cell science were to be unshackled in this country, anyone with moral or religious objections could simply refrain from donating sperms or eggs or even from ever benefiting from medical breakthroughs that may come.

But their argument is that the sanctity of life will still be violated and society shouldn�t allow that. (But we can allow the death penalty and send soldiers to death in war.)

I don�t think society should allow medical science to be censored because of the beliefs of a few. I don�t think it�s moral to ignore potential cures for great suffering.

We have the medical know-how to keep an Alzheimer�s patient alive for years and years, but we don�t have the science to give that patient a mind, dignity, and identity � a life. Is it moral to withhold a government�s money from the search for a solution to that? I think not.

We now can keep a quadriplegic alive for decades. But is it moral to censor the science that could someday regenerate those severed connections?

To worry that stem cell research will inexorably lead to Frankenstein mad science is distinctly un-Reaganesque, indeed un-American. Remember Star Wars? Ronald Reagan had a faith in American ingenuity so immense he thought it could protect us from the Soviet arsenal. That may have been na�ve, but the pessimism and Luddism of the opponents of stem cell research is paranoid. President Bush, supposedly the heir of Reagan�s optimism, should look back in history to look forward with more hope.

The darker Harry of adolescence

It had to happen. Harry Potter’s growing up. His magic is maturing. His third film is darker, more complex, rooted in character.

“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” is a different kind of Harry Potter movie, a better kind. Though its glossy look and exaggerated scale give it the required family resemblance to its predecessors, this third installment signals a change of course, away from the limited conventions of action-movie formula and into a more metaphysical direction. It’s where this fantasy series has wanted to go all along.
Director Alfonso Cuaron (“Y Tu Mama Tambien”) still has the burden, as did Chris Columbus, who directed the previous entries, of fashioning a film that works as a discrete entity and yet doesn’t disappoint the legions of fans for whom the movie can only be an adjunct to the reading experience. The strain is sometimes felt. Too much is left in, and there’s an uninflected quality to the movie’s first half hour, as if everything is being given equal importance.

But Cuaron’s respect for the material, going beyond the surface, enables him to steer clear of the twin traps of cuteness and meaningless freneticism. For Cuaron, the movie is more than just a chance to dazzle and amuse with spectacle. The amusing, dazzling spectacle is there, to be sure, and it’s better now than ever, arriving as it does within a context of recognizable of human emotion. Much more than its predecessors, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” is a movie for adults, too.

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I have always liked the Harry Potter series. I think it has been great for encouraging kids to read, and I know my younger son loves it.

I wish someone would do Phillip Pullman’s Golden Compass series — I think it would be a great classic on the screen if done right. They are marketed as juveniles, but are really written for adults, I think. It’s a dark, rich series that intrigues me.